While every person on the planet, as well as those fascinating scientists in orbit, do have a measure of creativity, not everybody is truly creative. By “truly” creative I mean those that want to push up and out of what they already know to find, or to create, something original.
As we age our patterns of behaviour and structures of belief tend to solidify. This offers a certain security and efficiency.
You’re more secure running with behaviour that has served you well in the past. As far as our evolutionary biology is concerned, behaviour that serves you well means actions that didn’t result in your death or dismemberment. This offers us a set of behaviours that keep us around while also refraining from carving any new paths into our journey.
There are, however, many times that following our established routines has ended up in disaster – one of the many flawed quirks of our wonderful brains. Keeping within the safe and secure doesn’t guarantee your safety or your security.
The efficiency portion is found in the decision making process – the more things we automate, the more time and energy we save. I don’t have to think about tying my shoelaces any more, my hands just follow a hop and skip and before I realize it I have tied a nice little bow. In fact if someone got me to explain it I would have to think pretty hard about what my hands actually just did.
Looking at the lives of children, they lack life experience and typically do not stay within the safe and secure. Bursting with creativity, they tend to go for the new and exciting over anything else. Curiosity and exploration are a massive and irremovable part of human nature, so when we’re young and forming our understanding of the world these traits are on at 110% to learn how to do things like operate our hands, not pee ourselves, and cultivate relationships with other small humans.
This is an inherently clumsy process. Just watch toddlers – they are particularly stubborn about trying things again and again until they achieve whatever they were going for – and not in a graceful way. Take walking as an example; just watch very young children and they’re terrible at operating their bodies. They really are like drunk adults – stumbling, falling over, laughing about it all.
On the case of drunk people, they are usually a messy bunch… but removing some of our regular inhibitions does allow for things that normally stay caged up. Often this is nothing more than an outlet to be loud and highly emotional – traits that are not encouraged by our typical nine to five. Most of us have also had times where these lowered inhibitions have led to brazen and reckless confessions. Hold things in too much, loosen the reigns, then let it all spill out.
But I digress. I could always find energy to elaborate about the boundaries that haunt us and the ways in which we seek an outlet, but perhaps another time. I am thinking about boundaries, but more along the lines of the boundaries of traditional thinking.
History’s greatest inventions and achievements find their way to us by doing things, saying things, and trying things that haven’t been done before. From a slight variance away from the norm to tearing down a framework and reinventing the wheel it takes a particular combination of persistence and original thought to bring forth something that doesn’t fit in any current molds.
Let’s look at an example that happened in the recent history of sports: the Oakland Athletics were a bottom rung team in professional baseball. Always punching above their weight, they simply didn’t have the finances to run a team of all-star talent that typically drives their way to victory.
So what to do?
They employed statistics. Instead of relying on scouts to go and get the best talent they could within their budget, they made creative use of what is known as “sabermetrics” to populate the team with relatively under-performing players that would give them the numbers they were looking for on paper.
For the people in charge this meant risking their reputations, careers, and the franchise on this bold move there were many that felt it was a poor choice. Nobody enlisted talent onto their roster using the numbers – teams needed people that could play the game better than anyone else. It would never work. And they were torn to shreds for it.
Only it did work.
The first year the Athletics employed this strategy they achieved the longest win streak in all of the prior professional baseball history. They didn’t win the series, but they made an impact. Afterwards other teams started to take this mechanic seriously.
But when they first implemented their bold plan there were many non-believers that were absolutely sure it was a failing move and career suicide. So, to a great many people, they sounded like idiots.
I don’t know about you, but I have some dreams that sound pretty silly when they’re compared to my everyday life. A part of me is excited to have these dreams and to have kept them from falling victim to the ruthless ravages of time, but another part of me thinks I sound like an idiot.
And I sure hope I keep sounding like an idiot.
There is a divide between where you are and where you want to be. In the middle there are all kinds of roads to get you from here to wherever it is you’ll end up. Some of these roads are well known, well traveled, and probably should be followed.
Some are, however, not a very useful investment of your time.
You wouldn’t want to use up your creative energy trying to cook a traditional English fryer using only your feet. You’d be slow, clumsy, break some things in your kitchen, and I guarantee there would be at least one serious burn.
On top of that we only have so much in our intellectual gas tank to make decisions for the day and when you use it up you fall victim to what’s known as “decision fatigue.” All of the decision power you’d have to use up to flip eggs whilst wielding a frying pan with your toes would be taxing on many parts of your brain, a brain that would also be struggling with wondering what the hell you’re doing in the first place.
But instead, let’s say you want to get your finances in order. Whatever you’ve been doing hasn’t been working for you so far, so you need to take some time to understand your current financial habits, make a plan for where you want your budget to be and when you want it to get there, then start executing the new process regularly so that it starts to turn results.
Not to mention that nothing is completely optimized on the first attempt, so you’d have to keep correcting and updating your plan as you see how it rolls out.
This is going to be much more difficult if you’re still processing how you pitted an avocado while managing to only cut off the tip of one toe.
I started this post with the mention of truly creative people and I’m sure that brings to mind history’s greatest artists, or perhaps the band you went to see last weekend that has lyrics that reach deeper into your soul than you ever thought possible.
But the trait of creativity can be used in many other ways to punch you out of whatever routines you’re already running and venture off into the unknown in any area of your life. The thing is, the chance that you’ll get something new right the first time you try it is virtually nonexistent.
So, for a while, you may sound like an idiot when you talk about what you’re doing. And you may feel like an idiot as well. Maybe not until the first time it inevitably blows up in your face, but that’s where you need the perseverance to carry on. To dust yourself off and try well-calculated idiotic things again and again.
Because something only fails until it doesn’t, and when you stick to it you’ll get better each time you go through it.
So please, keep sounding like an idiot. Use your every desire to concoct some new idea that is right out of left field. Figure out how to make yogurt that neutralizes alcohol in your blood to get you sober after you come home from the bar.
If you end up licensing that idea I want a cut.
And definitely keep feeling like an idiot. So long as you’re kind enough to remind yourself that you’re not an idiot for trying something new, and wise enough to learn that there is a difference between the feeling of having done something poorly because it was a bad choice versus having done something poorly because it’s never been done.
What have you done that initially felt like a terrible idea? What scheme did you formulate only to follow through and find out that it worked? Did it work out the way you thought it would?
Keep failing, my friends, and keep on the bright side.